This crispy and crunchy calamari recipe features fresh squid lightly breaded with panko, then baked or fried until every piece is crispy and golden. Serve with lemon wedges and dipping sauce, and dig in!
I upgraded this popular appetizer by skipping the heavy deep fryer oil. The squid is lightly breaded with panko and then baked until each piece is satisfyingly crunchy, tender, and succulent.
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What is calamari?
“Calamari” is a culinary term that describes the edible body and tentacles of various squid species. This seafood delicacy is known for its tender, pleasantly chewy texture and delicate sweet taste. Calamari is typically breaded and fried, but it’s also suitable for grilling, sauteing, and adding to seafood soup, salads, and seafood pasta.
Calamari is always made from squid and , contrary to popular belief, is NOT octopus. Octopus is an entirely different species of the cephalopod family and is prepared and used in very different dishes (you may like fried octopus instead).
- It’s surprisingly simple! My calamari recipe is almost as easy as throwing a bag of frozen calamari in the oven. All you need to do is hand-bread the calamari, then bake them in the oven until they’re crunchy and golden!
- Basic ingredients. This beloved seafood recipe calls for the simplest ingredients you can find at well-stocked grocery stores or in your own pantry.
- Multiple cooking options. I like to bake the calamari, but include options to deep fry and air fry it!
- Fresh calamari. You can buy whole fresh squid or calamari tubes for this recipe. If you opt for a whole squid, buy a small to medium-sized cleaned squid, as they tend to be more tender and flavorful. Also, make sure the tubular-shaped body and tentacles are firm, glossy, and free of any funky odors and slime.
- Olive oil. This keeps the meat moist as it cooks.
- Lemon juice. To tenderize and enhance the flavor.
- Panko breadcrumbs. These light and airy breadcrumbs give the calamari a more satisfying crunch compared to regular breadcrumbs.
- Dry spices. Salt, oregano, and black pepper are used to season the panko breading. You can experiment with more spices, like garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, or cayenne, if you want to play with or enhance the flavors.
How to make crispy calamari
I’ve included step-by-step photos below to make this recipe easy to follow at home. For the full printable recipe instructions and ingredient quantities, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Step 1 – Soak the squid. Mix the olive oil and lemon juice in a bowl. Submerge the calamari in the marinade and let it soak for 30 minutes.
Step 2 – Season the breadcrumbs. Stir the panko, salt, oregano, and black pepper together in a bowl.
Step 3 – Bread the squid. Working in batches, toss the marinated calamari in the seasoned panko, shaking off any excess crumbs.
Step 4 – Bake. Place the breaded calamari on a baking sheet, and bake until the breading is crisp and golden brown.
Step 5- Serve. Serve immediately with lemon wedges, and enjoy!
Alternative cooking methods
While baking calamari skips the oil, I’ve also tested this recipe the traditional way by deep frying it and, as a bonus, in the air fryer. Here is my way of making crispy fried calamari:
Deep fryer method: Fill the deep fryer or a large skillet with cooking oil. Once it’s heated to 350°F/175°C, carefully lower a small portion of the breaded calamari into the fryer and cook until crispy and golden. Drain the fried calamari on a paper-towel-lined plate, then repeat with the remaining pieces.
Air fryer method: Preheat the air fryer to 400°F/200°C, then arrange the breaded squid in a single layer inside the air fryer basket. Air fry for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Tips to make the best recipe
- Don’t skip the soak! Marinating squid in olive oil and lemon juice is the key to achieving soft and flavorful meat. The calamari will be rubbery without it.
- Bake in a single layer. Place the calamari in a single layer on the baking sheet, making sure there’s room in between each piece. This way, the heat will circulate evenly around the calamari, helping it brown and crisp.
- Bake on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet. This is optional but can leave you with extra crispy baked calamari!
- Prep the squid ahead of time by cleaning and cutting it, soaking it in the marinade, and coating it in the breadcrumbs. Place the breaded squid on a baking sheet, cover it with plastic wrap, and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to cook.
- Buy your squid from a fishmonger instead of the seafood section of the grocery store. The latter are often pre-frozen and don’t cook as well.
How to store leftovers
To store: Transfer the leftover calamari to an airtight container, keeping every layer separated with paper towels. Store in the fridge for 1 to 2 days.
To reheat: Warm the leftovers on a baking sheet in a 350°F/175°C oven until heated through and crispy.
More seafood appetizers
- Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp– Crispy, crunchy, and without all the oil.
- Air Fryer Crab Cakes– These make a fabulous appetizer or meal on its own.
- Crab Rangoon– The Chinese takeout classic, but homemade.
- Tuna tartare– Easy, elegant, and ready in minutes.
Crispy Calamari Recipe
- Preheat the oven to 220C/440F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Combine olive oil and lemon juice in a bowl and place the calamari in it to marinate for at least 5 minutes or up to 30 minutes.
- Mix panko bread crumbs, salt, oregano, and black pepper in a bowl. Dredge the calamari in the mixture to coat it evenly.
- Place the calamari on the lined tray and bake for 25 minutes until they turn golden brown.
- Serve immediately.
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